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MANCHESTER Developer Ben Hauben, who was responsible for creating the outlet stores that have defined Manchester for about 30 years, died Tuesday.

Hauben. 73, of Dorset, was the owner of Manchester Designer Outlets, which operated more than 40 retail stores in town including Ann Taylor, Brooks Brothers, Armani, J. Crew and Polo Ralph Lauren.

Polo was the first store to open in 1984. In July 2014, the Marble Mill, a new building with 20,000 square feet of retail space, including Eddie Bauer and New Balance, opened on Depot Street.

Wayne Bell, vice chairman of the Manchester Select Board, said Hauben had left the town a “powerful legacy” and some beautiful buildings.

“He really helped us revive the economic vitality of the town. I know not everybody loved all the things he did, but I think his legacy is an architecturally beautiful part of this town,” he said.

Berta Maginnis, executive director of the Manchester and the Mountains Regional Chamber of Commerce called Hauben a “visionary,” who had spent 30 years making his mark on the area.

“He saw Manchester as a community that could change its look, change its business focus. I think he always had ideas,” Maginnis said. “He believed in the town. He invested heavily in Manchester and advertising the town. Beyond that, he invested in the arts and culture. We lost a great benefactor for our town.”

An obituary was not immediately available for Hauben but his wife, Lana, remembered his humble beginnings.

Lana Hauben said Ben’s parents escaped Poland when Hitler invaded. Ben was born in a dirt hut in Siberia and came to the United States when he was still very young.

Ben Hauben worked at his father’s shoe store until he was 21, when he convinced a Japanese trading company to finance his own shoe business, Lana Hauben recalled.

He stayed in the shoe business for 20 years as a designer, manufacturer and importer, Lana Hauben said before entering the real estate business in New York City about 35 years ago.

“Pretty soon thereafter,
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(Ben Hauben) got interested in the outlet business because he saw it as the future of retailing,” Lana Hauben said.

According to Lana Hauben, she and her husband, whom she married in 1978, had a weekend home in Arlington, but their Vermont friends used to ask them when they would move to Green Mountain State permanently. Lana said Ben told them he would consider a permanent move if he could find something to do in the area.

One day, she said, Ben brought her to the intersection of routes 7 and 11/30 in Manchester, where the Northshire Bookstore now stands.

“He just looked east and said, ‘Is this Fifth Avenue and 57th Street or am I dreaming?’ And that was the beginning,” she said.

Lana Hauben said when her husband started the outlets, it was an unusual concept and many of the stores looked cheap or like factories.

“Ben’s vision was extremely different, as you know if you ride through Manchester,” she said. “He put quality buildings up. They were beautiful. The stores were beautiful. It was very, very, very, very new in the outlet business.”

Lana Hauben said the first store set the benchmark for outlet shopping in the United States and across the world.

Ben Hauben saw a lot of resistance, but persevered, Lana Hauben said. By the time the Marble Mill opened in 2014, many people were grateful for his efforts, she added.

Lana said Ben Hauben loved Vermont and was proud of his work in Manchester.

“He was a man who came out of the Holocaust, lost 50 percent of his family on both his mother and father’s side, who moved forward with life, went after what he wanted fearlessly and was not going to be stopped even though many people tried in the beginning,” she said.

Lana Hauben, who said Ben was survived as well by his three daughters, Alissa, Laura and Jill, said Manchester Designer Outlets will continue to operate. Thursday at the Israel Congregation of Manchester.
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